Friday, September 4, 2015

Goblins & Greatswords: Combat sequence

Initiative: I can take it or leave it.  I'm not sure it really adds much to the game, other than another die roll.  How would I run things if I left it out?  That's exactly the kind of thing to include in a fantasy heartbreaker, right?

One of the things I don't like about traditional initiative is that it often produces weird results when each side (or even each individual) is able to complete its actions for the round before the other even starts.  It also often disrupts what should be the logical sequence of things.  It seems ridiculous to me if, for instance, a swordsman can make a full round's worth of movement to attack an archer before the archer gets a shot off, just because the swordsman won an initiative roll.  Moldvay, though, explicitly allows missile fire to occur out of normal initiative sequence in the example of combat in the Basic Rules.  In other words, go in order of the die roll unless logic dictates otherwise.  But with that in mind, why not dispense with the die roll and simply have action occurring simultaneously unless logic dictates otherwise?

Here's what I've come up with as the basic sequence of actions in G&G.  Each combatant is allowed movement plus one other action per round.  The other action can be melee or missile combat, using an item, drinking a potion, picking something up, or anything else a player can think of to do.  In each phase, all characters and creatures who are taking an appropriate action will be able to act, regardless of which side they're on, and regardless of whether the events of that phase result in their being killed or incapacitated.  Combatants slain or incapacitated in one phase may not act in subsequent phases, however.  For example, two archers both get their shots off in the ranged combat phase, even if they kill each other, but if a swordsman moving to engage a foe is killed by arrows during the ranged attack phase, he is dead before the close combat phase, and thus may not complete his declared action. 

  1. Morale is checked, and attempts to surrender or parley are initiated.
  2. Declarations of intent. GM describes what the opponents are doing.  Players state their characters' intended movement and actions in general terms.  If an action is not declared, the character or creature acts at the end of the round, after the close combat phase.
  3. Ranged attacks. Any combatant using a ready missile device or a thrown weapon acts in this phase. Ranged spells and those cast on self or nearby allies take effect now. Magic items which are activated by a word or thought may also be used in this phase.
  4. Movement. Combatants who are not engaged in melee combat move now, up to their full encounter movement. Those who are engaged in melee are more limited. (5' per round, which may be dictated by an opponent's combat roll; see the previous post.) Combatants moving toward one another will meet somewhere in the middle.  Where enemy combatants meet, one or both may choose to engage the other in melee, which halts further movement.  If neither does, they simply move past each other.  Miscellaneous actions, such as opening a door, picking up an object within reach, or drinking a potion, are also resolved during this phase.
  5. Close combat. All actions involving melee combat or disengaging from it occur now. Spells that require close proximity to the target are also resolved in this phase.
  6. Held or changed actions.  A combatant who has not yet taken an action, and has not been killed or incapacitated, may abort a planned action and take some other action at the end of the round.  Using this rule, a character could, for example, hold a ranged attack action, move during the normal movement phase, and shoot at the end of the round from the new position.  If  movement itself is held, the combatant may move only up to half its normal rate at the end of the round, the other half being "wasted" during the moments of inaction.  If multiple combatants hold actions, they are resolved in the same order as the original combat sequence, i.e. ranged, movement, melee.  No further holding his possible.

    Example of Combat (refer to my previous post for the basic rules of combat)
A party of five characters consisting of Culhern and Saedrith, fighers; Telos, a cleric; Sorrel, a halfling burglar, and Kierdran, a mage, meets a band of a dozen orcs.  After attempting to negotiate from across a wide chamber, the encounter turns hostile.  Combat begins, with the groups 60' apart.

Round 1

Phase 1: Since combat has just begun, and the orcs outnumber the party, no morale checks need to be made yet, and negotiations have already broken down. 

Phase 2: The GM states that ten orcs draw their axes and charge, while two hang back and prepare to throw spears.  Culhern and Saedrith's players state that their characters draw weapons and rush to meet the advancing orcs.  Telos's player decides that his character will follow them, while Sorrel loads a bullet in her sling and Kierdran begins a sleep spell.

Phase 3: The two orcs throwing spears, Sorrel with her sling, and Kierdran's spell all act at once.  One orc throws its spear at Culhern, and its combat roll of 18 against his AC of 15 scores 3 points of damage.  The other comes up short on its roll against Sorrel, and its spear hits the wall behind her.  Sorrel fires at one of the oncoming orcs.  Her combat roll totals 21 after all adjustments, which deals maximum damage of 4 points against the orc's AC of 13.  The orc had only 3 hp, so it goes down, and will not be able to complete its action for the round.  Meanwhile, Kierdran finishes her sleep spell and sends four of the advancing orcs off to dreamland.

Phase 4: Orcs and humans move at about the same rate, so the moving combatants meet roughly halfway between their starting points.  There are five orcs left of the ten who began the charge, against three heroes. 

Phase 5: Culhern, Saedrith, and Telos all choose to engage in melee with the orcs, with the two fighters using the sweep option to engage two orcs apiece.  Telos fails his combat roll and does no damage.  Saedrith makes two combat rolls, each at -2, and gets results of 7 and 15.  The first orc is unharmed, but the second takes 2 points of damage.  Her orcs both wish to withdraw so they can go slay the unarmored mage and burglar.  They make their combat rolls and get a 5 and a 16.  Neither is enough to pierce Saedrith's sturdy plate and mail armor, but the second orc menaces her with its axe and manages to back away, disengaging from the melee.  Culhern rolls 12 and 19; the latter roll is enough to deal a mortal wound, but since actions happen simultaneously, the orc gets to make its roll against him.  It succeeds, and with its dying breath slashes at him for 5 points of damage!  Its cohort fails, though it lives to fight another round.

Since no actions were changed or held, no actions occur in Phase 6.

Round 2

Phase 1: At the start of the second round, the GM checks the orcs' morale, and determines that they will fight on. 

Phase 2: The orc who withdrew from melee with Saedrith charges at the mage and burglar, while Culhern, badly hurt, decides to defend, and also uses his greatsword like a spear to interpose between himself and the remaining orcs.  Saedrith takes on two orcs again, while Telos begins casting a spell to revitalize Culhern.  Sorrel readies her sling again, while Kierdran draws a dagger and prepares to throw it at the approaching orc.  The two orc spear-throwers draw axes and advance on the fighters and cleric.

Phase 3: Sorrel uses her combat roll to attack one of the fresh orcs threatening the fighters, and rolls a 14, dealing a paltry 1 point of damage.  Kierdran hurls her dagger and also scores 1 point of damage.  Since Telos is within easy reach of Culhern, the GM rules that he may touch his ally and the revitalize spell takes effect during this phase, restoring 5 hp to Culhern.

Phase 4: The former spear-throwers rush into the fracas in the middle of the chamber.  Everyone else is either engaged in melee already or chose not to move.

Phase 5: Culhern, restored, decides to drop his defensive stance and go on offense against the orc in melee with him.  Since this is a changed action, he'll have to wait until the end of the round to do it.  The enraged and slightly injured orc moving against Kierdran reaches her and attacks, rolling a 14 vs. her AC of 10, dealing 4 points of damage and seriously hurting her.  Saedrith manages to hold her own against two orcs, neither taking nor dealing any damage.  Two orcs attack Telos, wounding him for 3 points, and the last fails to hurt Culhern.

Phase 6: Culhern now takes his changed action, and rolls an adjusted total of 23!  Against AC 13, that's 10 points of damage, neatly liberating an orc's head from its body. 

So we leave our brave heroes, on the brink of victory or defeat as Round 3 looms...

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